Education International
Education International

Turkey: EI regrets further delay in the court decision

published 3 March 2010 updated 3 March 2010

EI has been informed that the High Court in Izmir decided yesterday to postpone until 22 June 2010 its decision in the case concerning 31 public sector unionists, including 27 teachers.

The charges against the defendants are the same charges which were made last November, that is providing “intellectual support to illegal organisations”. The ban on travelling abroad has not been lifted. If found guilty, each defendant could be sentenced to up to 10 years' imprisonment.

EI is now working on putting together an international trade union delegation to attend the Court hearing on 22 June.


The defendants are either members of the Turkish public sector union Kamu Emekçileri Sendikalari Konfederasyonu (KESK) or EI member organisation Egitim-Sen, and are either Kurdish or have links with the Kurdish community. The unionists were arrested on 28 May last year following months of surveillance of individual phones and emails. Their homes and workplaces were searched and computers confiscated. The arrests occurred in a very brutal way which caused psychological difficulties for family members, especially the children. The first trial was held from 19-20 Nov, 6 months after their arrest. EI was part of an international trade union delegation present, and noted several rights violations during the proceedings:

  1. Until the submission of the indictment on 31 July, the defence lawyers did not have access to their files at all;
  2. During the trial, the rights of the defence were not respected, with the president of the court himself doing the interrogation. The defence lawyers were impeded from speaking with the defendants;
  3. Only one female guard was present although ten women were standing trial;
  4. The time allocated for the trial was limited although many persons were charged;
  5. Due to the nature of the specfied charges against them, the defendants should not have been handcuffed during their transport to and from the court.

EI's actions

EI launched an urgent action appeal last June calling upon all member and partner organisations to support the release of the unionists. A total of 153 online messages were received from individuals all over the world, and letters were written by EI member organisations to the Turkish authorities protesting against the arrests.

In December 2009, the EI Executive Board meeting adopted an urgent motion on the case. It agreed “with the defendant’s assertions that they were prosecuted because of their commitment to secular, scientific and public education and the right of Turkish/Kurdish pupils to mother-tongue teaching,” and noted “that Egitim-Sen and KESK are under threat regularly because these organisations defend the rights of all workers and oppose the effects of the financial crisis.”

EI has also commissioned a report on the Political repression against teachers trade unionists in Turkey: the case of Egitim-Sen prepared by Birgul Kutan and Mario Novelli.

To be released in mid-2010, the report sets out to contextualise the situation of trade unionists in Turkey, and particularly teacher trade unionists. It seeks to understand why these teacher trade unionists were arrested, what the background was to the arrests, what the nature is of the ongoing legal process, and what might the international trade union movement do to assist colleagues in Turkey.

“By accusing people of being a member of an armed and illegal organization (PKK) the state effectively stigmatises and delegitimises both the detainees and the trade union movement in general,” concludes the report.

In February, an international delegation went to the Turkish embassy in Brussels to address the global trade union movement’s concern about the dramatic social conflict at the tobacco company TEKEL. EI used the opportunity to hand its Executive Board's urgent resolution to the ambassador, calling on the authorities to cease using the judicial system against trade unions.

EI's message

On behalf of all member organisations, EI reasserted its solidarity with the unionists in its message to Egitim-Sen and KESK sent on 1 Mar:

"We hope that the court hearing will respect the rights of the defendants, as we remarked that the trial in November did not meet international or national legal requirements, and that all charges against the 31 unionists will be dropped by the court."

EI will continue to monitor the situation closely and will report on the judicial decision as soon as it is known.